Multiple transcriptome mining coupled with tissue specific molecular cloning and mass spectrometry provide insights into agatoxin-like peptide conservation in decapod crustaceans
Over the past decade, in silico genome and transcriptome mining has led to the identification of many new crustacean peptide families, including the agatoxin-like peptides (ALPs), a group named for their structural similarity to agatoxin, a spider venom component. Here, analysis of publicly accessible transcriptomes was used to expand our understanding of crustacean ALPs. Specifically, transcriptome mining was used to investigate the phylogenetic/structural conservation, tissue localization, and putative functions of ALPs in decapod species. Transcripts encoding putative ALP precursors were identified from one or more members of the Penaeoidea (penaeid shrimp), Sergestoidea (sergestid shrimps), Caridea (caridean shrimp), Astacidea (clawed lobsters and freshwater crayfish), Achelata (spiny/slipper lobsters), and Brachyura (true crabs), suggesting a broad, and perhaps ubiquitous, conservation of ALPs in decapods. Comparison of the predicted mature structures of decapod ALPs revealed high levels of amino acid conservation, including eight identically conserved cysteine residues that presumably allow for the formation of four identically positioned disulfide bridges. All decapod ALPs are predicted to have amidated carboxyl-terminals. Two isoforms of ALP appear to be present in most decapod species, one 44 amino acids long and the other 42 amino acids in length, both likely generated by alternative splicing of a single gene. In carideans, a gene or terminal exon duplication appears to have occurred, with alternative splicing producing four ALPs, two 44 and two 42 amino acid isoforms. The identification of ALP precursor-encoding transcripts in nervous system-specific transcriptomes (e.g., Homarus americanus brain, eyestalk ganglia, and cardiac ganglion assemblies, finding confirmed using RT-PCR) suggests that members of this peptide family may serve as locally-released and/or hormonally-delivered neuromodulators in decapods. Their detection in testis- and hepatopancreas-specific transcriptomes suggests that members of the ALP family may also play roles in male reproduction and innate immunity/detoxification.